Shona Blake Interview

InterviewsIssue EightIssue Eight Interviews

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by Nik Shone.

About the artist:

Shona Blake is a singer/songwriter/writer based on the west coast of Ireland. Her thoughtful prose has a haunting honesty drawing from her life experiences. She released her first album “Explore” in 2016 and hopes to release her second in 2020. Shona has performed extensively over a 25-year career in music and writing has been a very grounding and important part of that, poetry and songs blending together on a canvas inspired by her love of family, friends, life and the sea.

She plays as part of a duo with her husband Paul McCabe and as part of a trio with Claire Watts and Anne Rynne as Three Women Sing.

INTERVIEWER

            What is your process in writing a song and how does making music enrich your life?

 

SHONA

This is a very interesting question as I really don’t have a process, if I’m honest. No two songs are ever written the same way. Some just fall out of my fingers onto the page, and I hardly know where they have come from. Others take months and months. I always write things down. No typing on phones or iPads for me. It just doesn’t feel the same and almost kills the inspiration before it has time to breathe. The music allows the words to flow.

Music has enriched my life in so many ways. I met my husband through music, and we continue to make music together. Both our daughters are very musical, and one is committed to life as a dancer. Music has brought so many great friends into my life and helps me feel fulfilled as a person. There is no better feeling than having a new song. It’s shiny new and the best one ever, until the next one comes along!

 

INTERVIEWER

            What motivated you to write the songs on your album?

SHONA

I feel I got to a stage in my life where I just felt ready to do an album. Life, love, surviving rearing teenagers, friendship, death, poverty, suicide, being a woman, my mother, a local love story, a local tragedy, and my lifelong passion for the sea inspired it.

 

 INTERVIEWER

Were there any unexpected challenges that came along with recording and releasing the album?

 

SHONA

The biggest challenge for me was that I had to sell myself. That shocked me to the very core and has really made me question myself as a creator. I thought I’d put all this work in and this baby would fly without wings. I’m not good at selling myself and I don’t know if I ever will be. It really goes against who I feel I am as a person. That’s the biggest challenge for me.

 

 INTERVIEWER

What are some of your highlights from performing your music?

 

SHONA

I think I speak for a lot of performers when I say that it’s always a highlight to sing for a listening audience. It sounds so simple, but it’s challenging to find a space to perform where an audience can listen. For instance, there are plenty of paying gigs to be had in pubs and restaurants, but that very often doesn’t lend itself to a listening audience.

I also play as part of a trio in Three Women Sing with Anne Rynne and Claire Watts. Through the poets, Anne Casey and Eleanor Hooker, we have been invited to perform our songs at poetry readings. It has been wonderful meeting all these wonderful, inspiring women and it has been a huge honour to share words and music with them.

 

INTERVIEWER

In contrast, you also write poetry, what is the difference for you when writing a poem as opposed to a song?

 

 SHONA

A lot of my songs begin life as a poem. If I’m inspired, it’s most often poetry that seems to flow first. Then the guitar comes out if the poem feels like singing!

 

INTERVIEWER

What inspires you?

 

SHONA

Absolutely everything. Love, life, the sea, colour, art, music, my family, my mother, a documentary, death, sadness, friends, a good story, people. Everything.

 

INTERVIEWER

What do you think is the importance of expressing yourself through lyricism and poetry?

 

SHONA

I think we all have a form of expression in us and I’m very lucky to have met mine. Words are my way of expressing myself and I would feel suppressed if I couldn’t get them down onto the page. The meeting of pen and page is so satisfying to me. If a melody is married to the pen and page, then I am doubly satisfied.

 

INTERVIEWER

What advice would you give your younger self?

 

SHONA

Be brave. Don’t be afraid.

 

INTERVIEWER

Are you working on any projects that we can look out for in the future?

 

SHONA

Paul and I are going into the studio at the end of November to put down new music and see where it will take us. I’m very excited about the new songs. The first album was my whole world before this album. This will be much more focused, I think. More together. I’d love to put a book of poetry and songs together, now that I’ve said it out loud: look out 2020!

 

We are delighted to publish one of Shona Blake’s poems in this issue.